ShareThis Page
Mental health education cited as biggest issue during South Hills roundtables | TribLIVE.com
South Hills

Mental health education cited as biggest issue during South Hills roundtables

1073738_web1_shr-AroundTheTable02-050219
Submitted | Larry Rippel
People talk at the Around the Table South event held at Community College of Allegheny County South.
1073738_web1_shr-AroundTheTable03-050219
Submitted | Larry Rippel
Steel Valley Roasters owner Dan Kelly holds an Around the Table sign.
1073738_web1_shr-AroundTheTable01-050219
Submitted | Larry Rippel
The discussion group at the Brentwood Library for an “Around the Table South” event.
1073738_web1_shr-AroundTheTable04-050219
Submitted | Larry Rippel
Todd DePastino, executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, hosted a table discussion for about a dozen Vietnam veterans.
1073738_web1_shr-AroundTheTable05-050219
Submitted | Larry Rippel
Around the Table South Community College of Allegheny County South Campus President Charlene Newkirk, left, and CCAC President Dr. Quintin Bullock hold an Around the Table Sign. The program gathered input from more than 1,000 people who helped identify the issues facing the South Hills. Story, additional photos, Page 8

Residents across the South Hills want to see more education done surrounding issues of mental health and addiction.

They want support groups formed and to ensure that people have access to help when needed.

On April 17, the Jefferson Regional Foundation released a report detailing the conversations of more than 1,000 people who gathered at 100 tables throughout the area last October during the “Around the Table South” event. Over a meal, they discussed ways to make the community healthier, safer and more dynamic.

“The fact that mental health came out on top and was discussed by every demographic group was somewhat not surprising,” said Mary Phan-Gruber, executive director of the Jefferson Regional Foundation.

That’s a topic she hears about a lot from people across the region.

Sponsored by the Jefferson Regional Foundation and Jefferson Community Collaborative, “Around the Table South,” was launched as a way for South Hills residents to make connections, share ideas and inspire action among people who live and work in the area. The conversations were all held in the Jefferson Regional Foundation’s service area.

“The beauty of this is that there’s a real value in people just having a conversation,” Phan-Gruber said.

Organizations across the region, from libraries to school districts to businesses, hosted the table discussions. While many discussed broad topics of interest to residents, some had specific issues they wanted to chat about that ranged from food to flooding. On April 17, about 40 of the hosts gathered at the Whitehall House in Brentwood to review the results.

During the last several months, the results from the event and post-event surveys were analyzed by the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh.

Their findings detailed that people in every demographic across the South Hills talked about concerns with mental health and addiction and, when they talked about the topic, the people at those tables felt more connected with one another, Phan-Gruber said.

Other topics that arose from the discussions were the desire to see more equity and social inclusion in the area. The younger, more highly-educated participants talked about this more frequently, Phan-Gruber said.

Other issues people wanted to see addressed in the area include youth development, health and wellness, education, transportation, economic issues and poverty, along with civic engagement.

Community College of Allegheny County’s South Campus hosted roughly 50 people during at least six table discussions. Attendees included everyone from local superintendents to professors to students.

They focused their conversation on workforce and what the college can offer to the community, said Charlene Newkirk, south campus president.

From the conversations, the college is working to expand its outreach to public schools in the area. Hosting the conversations brought area leaders and residents to the campus so they could see first hand what was going on.

That’s the biggest thing that came from this, Newkirk said.

“We’ve exposed people to how lovely our facility is,” she said.

Todd DePastino, executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, hosted a table discussion for about a dozen Vietnam veterans. While he typically meets with veterans for his organization, this conversation was different.

“I felt like I was getting to know them as community members,” he said. “It was really stunning to me.”

The veterans talked about what it was like to come home from the war and how that shaped the rest of their lives. They also talked about a desire to see a community center built in the area and for better communication of various topics from public officials.

Many participants have been inspired to take action, like the support group that was started at a local hospital for employees who are caregivers at home or the resident who launched her own social media campaign to focus on self-care.

The Jefferson Regional Foundation has also launched mini-grants, where it’s planning to give between $500 and $3,000, to ideas that emerged from the table discussion.

“We’re really thrilled so many people embraced this,” Phan-Gruber said.

Around the Table South will return for its second year in the fall.

Categories: Local | South Hills
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.